This season cardamom yields have fallen dramatically in Tendu, Samtse, where a fungal infection threatens this lucrative cash crop that sells for Nu 1400 a kg and is mainstay income for villagers of this region.
Cardamom growers said Chirkey and Furkey are the main diseases affecting cardamom plantations. According to their observation the affected plant produces profuse stunted shoots, which fail to produce flowers and seeds. The leaves become small, lightly curled and slightly pale green in color.
“I own 1.5 acres of land in Tendu and more than 60 percent is used for cardamom plantation,” said farmer Pedo Drukpa, 34, of Tendu. “But this year, more than half of the land has been used for other vegetables like chilli, spanich and bean due to poor cardamom yield.”
Pedo Drukpa said cardamom needs a lot of moisture and water in soil but over the years winter has become drier and the decrease in winter rainfall has directly affected the crop as well.
Insects, monkeys and wild boars also destroy cardamom crops at different seasons of the year and poor management is another factor affecting yield. Regular monitoring and guarding farms are the only measures to protect their crop.
Farmers said the plantations needs to be replanted every 15 years but most of the plantations that have been affected are over 20 years old. “We are planning to leave the plantation fallow for at least 5 years and allow nature to take its course to clean up the infected soil,” one grower said.
To make matters worse prices for cardamom have also fallen because of the implementation of the demonitisation policy in India. The regular Indian traders who buy the crop do not have cash to pay the farmers.
Rinchen Drukpa sold around 56 kg of his cardamom at Nu.1400 per kg last year. But this year prices have plunged to Nu.600-700 per kg. “After toiling day and night, the price being offered is so disheartening,” he said. “Indian traders have no Indian cash for payments. The price has already declined by 20% since the beginning of the demonetization campaign.